CHARLOTTE – Odell Beckham, Jr. displayed his immense talents as a receiver, passer and returner on Sunday, but he was a helpless spectator for the one play that will be seared into his memory.
Beckham, who accounted for 229 total yards, could only stand on the sideline with his teammates and coaches and watch in agony as Carolina kicker Graham Gano kicked a 63-yard field goal with one second remaining to give the Panthers a 33-31 victory against the Giants in Bank of America Stadium.
The Giants had taken a one-point lead on Saquon Barkley's second touchdown reception with 1:08 remaining, but lost after the last of several disputable calls by the officials and the longest field goal ever kicked against the Giants.
"This is tough," Beckham said. "There's no worse position to be in than to be on the sideline and just have to watch the kick go up through the uprights. I guess the only worse position is if you're back there to return a short field goal and it still goes through the uprights. Like I said, they put it together at the end, they came out with a win. But I'm proud of where we stand. Even though we're 1-4, this game today is going to be monumental for our season and us."
The Giants have little time to salve their wounds; they return to action at home Thursday night against 2-3 Philadelphia.
"Obviously, this was a tough one, just because I'm proud of the way our team fought back," quarterback Eli Manning said. "There were calls and there were plays and a lot of things not going our way. … (We did) everything we could do to come back from some bad plays we had in the third and fourth quarter and to get the lead there. We probably felt like we deserved to win that game and obviously to lose on a 63-yarder is tough to swallow."
The loss was reminiscent of the Giants' defeat in Philadelphia on Sept. 24, 2017, when, as time expired, Jake Elliott kicked a 61-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 27-24 victory. That was the longest field goal ever kicked vs. the Giants until Sunday.
The Giants were universal in their belief that the game should not have come down to Gano's leg. They compiled season-high totals of 432 total yards and 382 net passing yards. Manning threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Saquon Barkley caught the first two touchdown passes of his career. Beckham caught eight passes for 131 yards, including a touchdown; threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Barkley; returned three punts; and fielded the kickoff after Gano's game-winner.
After trailing in the fourth quarter, 27-16, the Giants took a 31-30 lead on Manning touchdown passes of 33 yards to Beckham and 15 yards to Barkley (sandwiched around Gano's 39-yard field goal) to take a 31-30 lead. The latter score was set up by Manning's season-long 40-yard pass to Russell Shepard.
"We knew we needed a touchdown to go and win it and guys made some big plays," Manning said. "Russell Shepard on the post route. Saquon Barkley on the final one. Line picking up things. Everything we could do to come back from some bad plays we had in the third and fourth quarter and to get the lead there."
"At the moment, it felt great," Barkley said of his late touchdown. "We wanted to go down and find a way to score and put seven on the board. We needed seven on the board. Coach (Pat Shurmur), the offensive coordinator and the whole offensive staff called great plays and put us in great positions to get into the end zone. We found a way to get into the end zone. Carolina came up with a 63-yard field goal. I don't know what else you can say about that. We played our butt off and you have to give credit where credit is due. They made a 63-yard field goal and won the game."
Barkley crossed the goal line with 1:08 remaining. On the Panthers' ensuing possession, Cam Newton's 20-yard pass to D.J. Moore helped advance the Panthers to the Giants' 46-yard line, where, on third-and-one, coach Ron Rivera called his final timeout with 30 seconds remaining. When play resumed, Christian McCaffrey took a handoff and ran up the middle. It seemed questionable whether he got the first down, but the officials gave it to Carolina. Two plays later, Gano kicked the game-winner.
"I think they jumped the gun a bit," defensive tackle Damon Harrison said. "From where I was, I don't think it was a first down. It was short."
"There was nothing I could do at that point," said Shurmur, who cannot challenge a call in the final two minutes. That's up to the replay official, who did not stop play.
Carolina scored on Newton touchdown passes of 25 yards to Curtis Samuel and 18 yards to McCaffrey, four Gano field goals and on a fumble recovery on a bizarre sequence of events on the second play of the second quarter that began with a Panthers' punt.
Michael Palardy's 51-yard kick veered toward the left sideline, where it caromed off the back off Beckham's leg at the two-yard line (it was officially ruled a muff). The ball bounced into the hands of Janoris Jenkins, who lost possession when it was knocked from his hands by wide receiver Samuel, who was credited with a forced fumble. As Jenkins turned around to pick up the ball, Eli Apple approached and inadvertently kicked it into the end zone, where Colin Jones recovered it for the touchdown.
"He was trying to get away from it and signal to the gunner to get out of the way and you saw it," Shurmur said. "It hit him on the leg."
In addition to the spot on McCaffrey's run, there were other critical calls that went against the Giants. A roughing the passer penalty on Kerry Wynn nullified a Panthers holding penalty. Early in the fourth quarter, Collins was flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness for hitting Devin Funchess on what would have been an incomplete pass on third-and-13, which would have forced Carolina to punt. Given new life, McCaffrey scored four plays later to give the Panthers their 11-point lead.
"I hit the ball first," Collins said. "I remember hitting the ball, and then someone hit me in the back. I went for the ball, my eyes were on the ball."
Shurmur didn't want to make a big issue about the officiating, but he seemed perplexed by the call on Collins.
"What I am going to say is what I saw was a guy going for the ball, making an effort," Shurmur said. "I think he touched the ball, if I'm not mistaken. I saw that with my own eyes. So a guy is making a play on the ball with no attempt to target the receiver, so that's how I saw it."
In the end, what he saw was painful defeat.
"That was quite a game," Shurmur said. "To play it, I meant there's many things to talk about. Disappointed for our team, the way we played. We played hard. We played tough. We played the way that I know that our team is, so for the record, our team is tough, they play hard and I've got no issues with the way they play. Again, we've still got some things we've got to clean up and play better, but we'll get that fixed as we go. We'll deal with the disappointment quickly and then we'll get right back to work, being we've got a game on Thursday."